Mark 7:25-30 recounts the story of a Canaanite woman coming to Jesus asking him to heal her daughter. Jesus at first seems to rebuff her asking why he would give dogs the food meant for the children. The woman, desperate for her daughter to be well, replies to Jesus that the dogs eventually get the crumbs dropped by the children. The usual sermon on this emphasizes the woman’s tenacity in asking for her needs. I want to take us somewhere else.
The Canaanite woman is ready to accept the crumbs of the feast because of her desperation. Jesus has a different idea.
The Voice translation reads: “29 This is a wise saying. Go back home. Your daughter is free of the spirit that troubled her.”
Jesus gives to the woman the portion given to all children of God, the desire of her heart. This woman, an outcast of Jesus’ society, is known by Jesus as a child of God and deserving of the feast. Jesus shares abundantly from the Table, and Jesus calls us to do the same.
On June 8, 2015, Tony Campolo, a well-known evangelical speaker, pastor, and author released, a statement declaring that his view on the inclusion of married gay and lesbian couples in the church had changed. People were excited and lauded this message. I was hesitant. After 10 years in a Pentecostal evangelical church, where I underwent reparative therapy, I learned to hear below the surface of the words that are used.
I learned that what is not said is as important as what is said.
Mr. Campolo’s thesis is: “It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church.”
Mr. Campolo erased me, a single Queer woman, from those allowed at the table. Voicing my frustration at being erased brought about a torrent of replies:
“You don’t understand how far he’s come in his opinion.”
“Tony’s a hero!”
“Be glad he’s saying this.”
Here were allies, friends, siblings in Christ, praising this statement; this statement that excludes single gays or lesbians and doesn’t mention bisexuals, transgender or genderqueer folks. Many of the LGBTQIA were being kept away from the feast table, still being told to accept the crumbs under the table.
I commented on social media posts raising these issues. Repeatedly comments appeared stating that I should be grateful for this “baby step.” How do I explain that Mr. Campolo’s statement does not include me? How do I explain that God affirms me and already welcomes me to the table? How do I explain that, once again, the church was affirming second-class status for me – with the promise that my inclusion would come some day?
All day my mind reverberated with Jesus giving to the woman her heart’s desire and Jesus’ approach that it was not too much to ask. When I read statements like the above, I feel like my allies in the church are saying that I need to be thankful for the crumbs given to the dogs, while Jesus proclaims and secures my place at the feast. I cannot understand the reaction of my allies and siblings in Christ asking me to be thankful for crumbs when they are fed to bursting and their seat at the table is not in question.
Those among the LGBTQIA community who spoke out offered valid critique. We were accused of shaming Mr. Campolo when in fact we were speaking truth in love and sharing the ongoing hurt we face. I saw no one disparage Mr. Campolo. I saw my LGBTQIA siblings stand up and speak up as the Canaanite woman did. We boldly proclaimed our place at the feast. It is important for us to examine our places of comfort and security in the church–our own privilege. Are we more concerned with keeping our seat or are we more concerned with making sure that all are at the table?
I believe that we are called to be intentional about the full inclusion of all people at the feast.
The table is set. It is plentiful. All can be fed.
If we accept “baby steps” without noticing what is missing, we are not taking a full stand for the work of Paradise. Pointing out what Mr. Campolo ignores is noticing where we are not calling out to all to come, for the feast is ready. Proclaiming our place at the feast is our right as Children of God. We do not remove anyone when we do so; we set new places allowing more to come and feast. Asking the LGBTQIA to accept crumbs and wait delays justice and creates a second-class status. We have the opportunity to host the dinner party of the century. Mr. Campolo reduced the guest list; let’s make sure that all are invited.
Living into the promise of Paradise means no one is forgotten – all are fed.